So Justice League came out this week, and I took Mrs Sar along to see it today.
As some readers will be aware, I’m one of the few viewers who actually honestly really loves Man of Steel, Henry Cavill’s first foray into the role of the..well, Man of Steel, Superman.
I thought it was a great coming of age story, and it even explained why Superman is so averse to killing bad guys, after the trauma of having to kill the last of his kind in Zod.
Then Batman vs Superman came along, and while it wasn’t as good as Man of Steel, I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Good enough that I bought the two films together as a double pack on the Playstation Movie store. This included the monster 3 hour version of BvS, and that is a much superior version of the film. The pacing is so much more consistent, even though it still relies on the same cop-out denouement to kill the conflict between the titular heroes (“Martha?”).
Then of course since then Wonder Woman came along to the DC Cinematic Universe in her first standalone feature, which objectively proved itself to be the best film by DC yet. Spoiler alert, it still is, but subjectively Man of Steel is still my favourite 🙂
Anyway, directly following on from the end of Batman vs Superman (which itself tailed directly on from the end of Man of Steel), we were left with a dead Doomsday (a resurrected mutant Zod in a bit of a inane decision by DC), a similarly dead Superman (as per the comics vs Doomsday), and a segue into the formation of the Justice League, which is obviously where Justice League the movie picks up the continuity baton.
The first half of the film’s paltry 2 hour running time is all set around the gathering of the initial members of the League:
- Wonder Woman
- The Flash
Ezra Millar as The Flash was something I was decidedly unsure about when the casting was first announced. Having been a massive fan of The Flash TV series for the past 4 years, Barry Allen for me was always going to be Grant Gustin. However Millar puts in a decidedly decent turn here as the Scarlet Speedster, proving to be funny, dorky, sweet and awkward, which was kinda nice.
Ray Fisher’s Cyborg proves to be integral to the overall plot, especially in the film’s final action sequence, but otherwise he was merely a serviceable character who just seemed to be a bit unremarkable otherwise.
Jason Momoa’s Aquaman is basically a Bro with a pitchfork. While he does provide some moments of mirth playing against his machismo, Aquaman for me is one of DC’s least interesting characters, and that opinion doesn’t change a whole lot during Justice League.
And of course we have Gal Gadot returning as the brilliant Wonder Woman, who proves to be the heart of the entire film, as well as Ben Affleck’s Batman, who here seems to be a lot duller than in BvS. The film is centred around Bruce Wayne, which is a shame, because bar Aquaman, every other member of the Justice League mentioned above proved to be a more interesting character.
Then there’s the film’s villain, the fully CGI Steppenwolf. A completely bland, forgettable character, who fittingly, is largely forgotten for large swathes of the film by the main cast. He forms a part of less than a handful of action sequences in the film overall, and doesn’t even really seem to have much motivation beyond “Destroy Everything”, in a lazy “bad guy motivation” move.
Overall the film feels lacking. Like there’s been a LOT of stuff left on the cutting room floor to fit the film into the 2 hours that Zack Snyder, and later Joss Whedon, were forced to fit the film into by DC executives for reasons…
For me, the Marvel Cinematic Universe gave their heroes’ first ensemble film much more justice (pun entirely intended). Each hero featured in the first Avengers movie had had their own full film(s) to build up and explain the character and what drove them to do the things they do, before putting them all together to face a truly epic threat.
Here however, half or more of the running time is broken down introducing each of the characters, their backstory and how they fit into the team overall. That left far too little time to spend on developing Steppenwolf’s character beyond the basic bad guy template he proved to be. Not enough time to build him up to be the credible kind of world-ending threat that it would take an entire roster of Superheroes and demi-gods to come together to take on.
As a result the film falls slightly flat in the final act, letting the film down overall, and it’s largely the interaction and burgeoning friendship between the League members that really holds the film together.
Now, let’s get onto the main talking point of the movie, which I’m sure DC didn’t want to be a talking point.
Yes, Superman comes back to life in Justice League. Needless to say it involves a macguffin, a dicey plan and a short sequence where Supes beats up the rest of the League members very easily upon his resurrection (well, you’d be confused too if you suddenly came back to life several months after dying without any signs of decomposition…)
However, as good as Henry Cavill in the role always is for me (man-crush alert), there is one glaring issue with his performance in this film.
Well not HIS performance per se, more that of his upper lip…
During reshoots Cavill was contracted to Paramount, whilst filming Mission Impossible 6, a role for which he had grown a full moustache that he was contractually obliged to keep and definitely not shave off.
So, some genius at DC thought it would be a thoroughly sensible idea to use CG to remove this offending lip-warmer to give us a clean-shaven Superman.
I’ll let you judge for yourself how well that played out:
Yeah, he actually has 2 upper lips in that 2nd shot…
It is just simply some of the worst CGI in movie history, and is so noticeable in
most all of Cavill’s scenes that had to be CG’d in post. In some his chin is amazingly large (exhibit A), in others it just looks bad (B), and in others they had to CG his teeth into shot making him resemble the Annoying Orange…
Seriously, it was so bad it was distracting most of the time, and unfortunately it seemed that at least 60% of Cavill’s scenes in the theatrical cut of the film were these re-shoots, which compounded the issue even further.
It allegedly cost DC $25m dollars to do this, when they could’ve bought a $3.99 fake beard at a local prop store and just gave Supes a full on beard & tache combo, same as Supes had in Rebirth when he came back to life…
A much simpler, swifter and more believable end-result. Instead, the film, without extensive rework before its home release, will go down in history as one of the worst examples of CGI ever committed to the cinema screen.
Anyway, overall the pacing was uneven, a largely forgettable villain, and the worst way to waste $25m dollars all served to drag the film down from the heights it could’ve achieved, and the heights that DC perhaps needed it to hit. Because for now, Wonder Woman remains DC’s only solid hit with both critics and audiences.
On the plus side, the character moments between the League members both before and after taking on Steppenwolf, as well as the performances by Gadot, Cavill and Miller served to lift it from the doldrums of absolute mediocrity.
Overall, marking it out of 10, it’s not quite a 7, so I’ll give it a 6.9.
Never so bad that you’re bored, but never so good that you can ignore Superman’s amazing upper lip fiasco.
And one other final thing to mention, if you do go to see it, stick around for the mid and post credits.
Up until now DC have avoided inserting these types of stingers into their films for fear of comparison with Marvel, with whom they still need to make up lots of ground on. However Justice League sees them depart from this philosophy for scenes worth sticking around for…